Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday Fifteen

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary.
I truly cannot believe that we've been married for FIFTEEN YEARS!

It's 2:08 PM as I begin to write this blog here in Charlotte, NC.
Fifteen years ago at this very moment, I was on my way to the Williamstown Baptist Church in a white Cadillac that we'd rented for the occasion for a 2 PM wedding ceremony.

This is what we wrote and said to each other:
"I Gail/Steve take you Steve/Gail to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife.
As God gives me strength,
I will laugh with you in joy,
grieve with you in sorrow,
and grow with you in love.
On this day, as I commit myself to care for you,
I offer myself into your loving care.
Now and throughout our lives."

Aren't those cool vows?

The 2 PM ceremony had been preceded by a 10 AM breakfast at the Williams Inn for all our family, friends, and invited guests. It was a wonderful way to begin our wedding day. No need to have all those people come in from out of town and have nothing to do and nowhere to go for the hours leading up to the nuptials. Following the ceremony, we returned to the Inn for a light reception, cake, punch (ours was a "dry" reception), and dancing. Because everyone had met at the breakfast, conversation, dancing, and mingling were a cinch at the reception. By 7 PM, the festivities was over, and not soon thereafter, Steve and I sat looking at each other wondering what had happened to us.

I suspect that around 7 PM tonight, we will do exactly the same thing.
We'll be sitting across from each other at dinner,
look up from our plates at each other
and wonder aloud, "What has happened to us?"

Fifteen years.
Six cars.
Four homes - although one was a small one-bedroom rent-free apartment on the third floor of a boys' dorm at a boarding school in Connecticut. That hardly counts...
Four gerbils.
Two hamsters.
Two children.
Two deceased fathers.
Two deranged mothers. (I hope my Mom isn't reading this!)
One turtle.
One dog.

We've gone through so much together.
We've traveled to England, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, and many of these US of A together.
We've watched our fathers suffer debilitating illnesses and have buried both of them.
We've watched churches stumble, crumble, and fall.
We've encouraged friends to get married when love was under construction.
We've encouraged friends to stay married when divorce was under consideration.
We've weathered our own marital, personal, family, and financial storms.
We've watched our children grow from wiggly little eruptions in my abdomen into a preteen young woman and budding young man that we are proud to call our children and glad to call our friends.

Looking back, I realize that we have lived up to our vows:
we have laughed, grieved, and grown together.
In joy, sorrow, and love. Not always in that order.

There have been challenges.
There have never been regrets.

There are many trials and challenges yet to come; that's inevitable.
There are also many joys and triumphs yet to come; that's incontrovertible.

And fifteen more years.
At least.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Just the Two of Us...

Kristiana is away at camp until Friday; she left Monday.
Steve is away on business until this evening; he left Monday as well.
So Daniel and I have been a terrific twosome since Monday morning.
We've played ping-pong.
We've played catch.
We've read together.
We've watching World Cup soccer: Singing for Brazil's win. Sorrow for Spain's loss.
We've eaten pizza, cookies, fruit, and muffins.
We've walked in the rain and played in the sunshine.
We've talked, laughed, prayed, and even cried together.
I've scratched his back.
I've cut his hair.
Just the two of us.
I like this boy a lot; I think I'll keep him.

With Steve and Kristiana out of town, and Daniel being a self-proclaimed non-dog-walker, I've had a lot of time alone with Maya this week as well.
We've walked, run, and played.
We must be quite a sight: the five-pound Yorkie pretending she's an Alaskan Husky attempting to pull the 5'10" woman up the block. I felt like it was time to nip the insanity in the bud, so I've spent good time with her outside this week, training her to stay closer to me as we walk and not try to drag me up the street.
To her credit, Maya has done well with my new expectations.
After all, she's had very little distraction;
it's just been the two of us.
I'm starting to like this dog a lot; I think I'll keep her.

Yesterday I made a new friend. His name is Hoover. He's a powerful steam-vac carpet cleaner. Being that we don't have carpeting downstairs (Thank God for dark hardwood floors!), I had to haul Hoover up the fifteen steps to the second floor - yes, I have the steps counted. The front staircase is made up of 15 steps in a single run. The back stairs have three steps, then they turn to the right, then there are twelve more steps. I did mention my slight obsession with numbers last week.

Back to my story... Together Hoover and I have cleaned the homeschool room, Kristiana's room, Daniel's room, my bedroom, and part of both staircases. I've filled the two tanks, emptied them, rinsed out the retrieval tank, and marveled at the filth Hoover has extracted from our carpets. And we don't even wear shoes in the house! I simply cannot imagine how horrific the carpets would be if we wore our shoes up here. Yikes!
I like this machine a lot; I think I'll keep it.

Earlier today, as I rinsed out yet another bucket full of filthy carpet run-off, I got to thinking. There were only a handful of visible stains on our carpet before Hoover got to work. Dog stains, spilled drink stains, and stains that come from the bottoms of sweaty feet and socks. Those stains covered less than five percent of the carpet. So where did the rest of the grime that filled the rinse bucket come from? Why didn't I see it? After all, we don't wear our shoes up here and I vacuum regularly, so why was the carpet so dirty?

My answer: life happens. We sweat. We shed hair and skin cells. Maya comes running upstairs with dirt on her paws and in her fur. Dust accumulates, and we pound it into the carpet with our heavy footsteps. I cannot explain where the dirt comes from, but it was there. I saw it in the machine. I watched it run down the sink drain.

I suppose the same is true of mind and spirit. The dirt that gets kicked up from the road of life - things like disappointments, unchecked anger, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, dashed hopes, forgetful friends, fear, crises near and far, death, illness, and moments of despair - leaves some visible stains, but most of the detritus of life gets ground under the surface. It's not until I take some time out to reflect, journal, and pray that I realize how much of life's stuff has gotten pressed down into the cracks and crevices of who I am. I don't condemn myself for getting dirty; I simply set aside time to do some steam-vacuuming.

Sometimes as I sit and take notes on my life, I wonder how ridiculous I must look trying to pull life up and down the street according to my schedule and desires. Try as I might, I cannot move the hands of time forward or backwards. I cannot relive moments I wish I could change or fast-forward to moments I long to experience. I'm learning, slowly but surely, to walk at a reasonable pace, to trust The Master to lead me beside still waters, and sometime soon I hope to stop pooping where I sleep!

If you'll allow me to speak in the voice of my beloved son, Daniel, for a minute here--> "When the house feels really empty and lonely, when the rain is pouring down so hard that I can barely see what's five feet in front of me, when it feels like I can't think of a single thing to do because all my friends are either at camp or on vacation with their families, then I can cuddle up with someone special and let her scratch my back." Or in my case, I can settle down in front of the computer to read blogs, check email, and send out a few. I can reread earlier emails and send fond, kind wishes to faraway friends. I can make the occasional phone call.

And when all those options come to an inevitable end, I remember that I can choose between Daniel (I bet I can beat you in ping-pong again, little fella!), Maya (Do you have to go pee-pee, sweet girl?), and Hoover (Is that a stain I see in the carpet over there or just a shadow?) and do something extra special, just the two of us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Today's Happiness...

Ali Edwards ( has begun a new blog with a simple title: "What is your happiness today?" The answers to that question are my Thursday Thirteen today.

1. Going for a walk at 6:30 this morning - with my husband.
2. Watching a Beth Moore video with my children today - she's one of my favorite Bible teachers. Even though I didn't ask my children to watch with me, one-by-one they joined me while it was on, and each of them decided to stay to the end.
3. Having lunch today with a dear friend at Dean and DeLuca.
4. Picking up the children afterwards and going to Blockbuster where we each picked something to enjoy.
5. Going from there to my mother-in-law's place to visit with her for about half an hour. She was all smiles when we left.
6. Knowing that by doing #6, I earned some "serious brownie points" with hubby-dear.
7. Making and enjoying a quick, easy, and delicious vegetarian meal for dinner tonight.
8. Listening to my children share last night's leftover chicken after arguing about who would get it earlier in the afternoon. (I guess their meal won't be entirely vegetarian, hunh? Plus, I am enormously grateful that they are arguing over the leftovers rather than snubbing their noses at them!)
9. Getting some excellent reading and journaling done this week. Stickers and markers are so much fun.
10. Finding a book at Border's that will help me immensely with a class I have to teach.
11. Mostly watching but partly helping Daniel make a collage of pictures of himself doing various athletic activities.
12. Watching World Cup soccer with him; he does love sports.
13. Mostly watching but partly helping Kristiana get things ready for camp; she'll leave on Monday morning and return Friday evening. I hope she has a blast.

14. The best one of all - knowing that I could write 13 more things for which I am grateful this afternoon. That's a very good problem to have. Very good indeed.

What's your happiness today?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The "F" word...

Yesterday morning, the kids and I walked to the library to return some books and to pick up a book that was on hold for me. Before leaving, I checked my library account on their website and discovered that two exercise videos I'd checked out were an entire week overdue! Yikes! I quickly calculated that I owed $12. Not good, Gail.

As we walked, the children and I chatted and told stories all the way. We commented on dogs we saw, the status of neighbors' lawns, past journeys we've taken as a family, future trips we hope to take, baseball, basketball, world cup soccer, all sorts of things. We looked up at dying trees and looked down at very lively weeds that had pushed their way through cracks in the sidewalk. We were the von Belsito family on a hike through the Alps of South Charlotte, singing, laughing, and making the most of a humid Carolina morning.

So when I arrived at the library, tail between my legs because of the overdue thing, and handed the videos to the woman behind the counter, I was a little offended and taken aback when she handed me my receipt and said, "Here is proof that you are once again an upstanding citizen." Perhaps I am a little over-sensitive on such issues, but I didn't think that having overdue videos changed my citizenship status. Whatever...

After locating the book that was being held for me, I went back to the same woman to check out - my mistake. I opened my wallet and discovered that I'd left my library card at home. Again, my mistake - I remembered immediately that I'd pulled it out of my wallet because I didn't intend to carry my wallet with me, but once I discovered the overdue videos, I took my wallet in order to pay the fine... and left the card on my desk.

Not surprising to anyone who knows me, I'm one of those number-obsessed people who memorizes many of the important numbers in my life (Is there any number more important than one's library card? FYI - I haven't memorized the kids' social security numbers yet, but I do know their library card numbers by heart. Go figure.) and offered to write my library card number down for the librarian to use. She would have none of that. I couldn't understand why not and, in my defense, I noticed that another librarian seemed as surprised as I that she wouldn't allow me to use my card number. There is a library regulation that states that each patron gets only two opportunities to have their account accessed without their card and then they have to pay for the privilege; I now have one mark on my record.

I left the library feeling quite prickly. What did I do to deserve to be treated that way? I am one of their most loyal and supportive patrons. Most of the employees there know us either by name or by face; we are regular guests, as you can well imagine. By the time we got back home, I was in quite a lather. How dare she? Doesn't she know who I am?

About an hour later, I pulled out the last journal I'd written to look up someone's phone number, and while flipping through it, I came across the notes I'd taken on The Traveler's Gift, a book I'd read earlier in the spring. One of the seven declarations of that book is, "Today I will have a forgiving spirit." Perfect timing; thanks, Lord, I needed that.

Take a deep breath, Gail. Forgive her meanness, her rudeness, her inflexibility. Forgive your own anger, your judgmental thoughts, and your desire for an apology. You have no idea what she's facing, what her life is like, or what she has endured at the hands of unruly library patrons. Her behavior is not worthy of carrying a grudge or going back and speaking to a supervisor. And with that, I was set free.

If I cannot forgive the disrespectful librarian,
if I cannot forgive the crabby cashier,
if I cannot forgive the forgetful friend,
the disobedient child,
the raging driver who passes me on the right,
then how will I ever forgive myself for disrespecting others,
for being crabby with Steve and the kids,
for forgetting the birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones,
and for sometimes being a rage-aholic myself?

If I cannot forgive others,
how will I ever be forgiven?

Monday, June 19, 2006

I'm back...

from New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania.
I can explain.

I flew into Newark International Airport on Thursday morning. Took the Path Train from there into Manhattan where I walked and took to bus up to a friend's apartment on West 57th Street. I dropped my bag and hit the streets. Four hours, countless shops, and a few phone calls later (too bad for those of you who weren't available to walk, talk, and hang out with yours truly!) I returned to their apartment, changed my clothes, and met up with an old friend (well, he's not old, but we've been friends for over a dozen years) for dinner at a fabulous restaurant overlooking Central Park South. Thanks, John, for my first lesson in vintage red wine and one of the finest meals I've had in a good long while. Sorry I was so under-dressed; I'll know better next time.

On Friday morning, I met up with another friend for breakfast at Giorgio's Country Grill - a term that seems somewhat oxymoronic for a restaurant on the West Side of Manhattan. The food was good; the company was fantastic, and neither of us wanted to part from the other.

From there, I walked back to my friend's apartment, and while on my way, I came across an elderly gentleman who had fallen on the sidewalk. His nose was bleeding, his fingers and hands looked bent, perhaps broken, and he looked quite distressed. The most touching thing about the entire scene was that three rather burly, hard-hatted construction workers were attending to him quite tenderly. They had called an ambulance already (I asked just to be sure), and one was offering the gentleman his cell phone in case he needed to call anyone. I prayed for him often over the weekend.

At high noon, a group of us women left NYC for The Tuscarora Inn in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, where I led ninety or so co-travelers on this journey called life through a weekend retreat entitled "Traveling Mercies: On Life's Journey with Christ." Many tears were shed (most of them mine), many laughs were shared, and both hearts and minds were touched by grace, love, and the ever-new mercies of God. I spent hours talking to women one-on-one, listening to their stories not only of trial, but also of triumph. I spoke in English with some and Spanish with others. I listened to women sing and pray in Korean, Haitian, Spanish, English, and German. What a mixed group; what a mix of blessings.

In between the sessions, I read, journaled, napped, ate, walked, and sat on a bench outside my room, facing a broad and flat river, taking in the sights and sounds of rural PA. I was struck more deeply by the great beauty of that place yesterday morning as a group of us watched a slideshow of the aftermath of a terrible flood that took place there in April of 2005. The same bench on which I sat early yesterday morning had been submerged under four to six feet of water some fourteen months earlier. There is healing, cleansing, and destructive power in water. (And also in our words - but that's a-whole-nother blog.)

Yesterday at this time, I was on my way back to Newark International Airport for the return flight to Charlotte. It was an exhausting and exhilirating weekend. I rekindled existing relationships and made new ones. I also spent a significant amount of time in solitude, rekindling my relationship with myself: walking in Manhattan, waiting for flights, and willing myself to sleep after large meals and long talks - it was all glorious.

I love to travel.
I love to teach.
I love to spend time with friends, in spirit and face to face.
I hope to do a lot more of all of the above in the near future.

But at the moment, I'm back at home,
knee-deep in laundry,
chest-deep in good memories,
and over-my-head with gratitude.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Water, worry, everywhere...

It's raining in Charlotte at the moment. It has been unceasingly cloudy and unseasonably cool all day. I took the kids and two friends to the neighborhood pool earlier today; they insisted on going, even though it was raining off and on all morning. Kristiana and I sat on two towels with another two towels over our heads to keep from getting soaked by the cool rain. Daniel and his two friends frolicked in the pool, alone. Even the lifeguards had on sweatshirts. After about 40 minutes, one boy's teeth began to chatter and his lips turned a shade of blue usually reserved for the Carolina sky. They agreed that warm, dry clothes were more appropriate that cold and clammy swimming trunks.

Don't let my dismal description fool you - I love the fact that it's raining. We need lots of rain to make up for our severe deficit. Life-giving, life-sustaining, and potentially life-threatening water is liquid gold. Its power is rivaled by very little. Its soothing sounds lull us to sleep. Its roar awakens us. Its beauty draws us from the sand to the surf. Its strength drives us from surf to shelter. Yet for all its ferocity and destructive potentional, we absolutely cannot live without it.

It wasn't until we moved into our house in Norwalk in 1997 that I became aware of the precarious balance we walk in terms of rain, drought, and water levels. Everything I thought I knew about water changed once we became dependent on a private well. Suddenly I cared about the length of showers, the watering of the lawn, the need to add water to our constantly leaking swimming pool, and whether or not the faucets leaked. Many a night I lay in bed worrying about how many loads of laundry I could do the next day without taxing our water supply too severely.

I never know how much water was in our well at any time. Truthfully, I didn't even know where the well was located until just before we moved out and the inspector came to test it for the future buyers. However the fact that I had no idea where it was did not in any way diminish the fact that it was on my mind nearly every day. On a weekly basis, I had to backwash the system, make sure the salt talk was filled so that the water would be properly treated and softened. On a quarterly basis, I had to order 50 pound bags of salt from the Culligan man. Water was a constant concern for me.

I remember one particularly dry summer when I heard reports of people whose wells had run dry. They'd been forced to rent water trucks and ration the water until the water table rose again to useable levels. What if we ran out, I pondered? What if the underground water source were to become contaminated - what would we do then? How would we even know? Would the chlorinated, chemically-treated water in our swimming pool, the water that was constantly seeping out of some undetected hole in the liner, affect our well? What about the hundreds of pounds of fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide that ended up on our lawn and our neighbors' lawns? What if this? What if that?

All that worry.
All that fret.
And there was absolutely nothing I could do to control the rainfall, the water table, or whether or not the rain that fell onto our property would eventually wind up in our well.

The good news is that we never had a problem with our well. It never ran dry. We never suffered any inexplicable stomach ailments that could be blamed on water contamination. Several friends who came to our house commented that the water tasted good to them. I smiled and thanked the Lord for providing the water, the well, the salt, and the know-how to keep that antiquated system running.

Yet another lesson in the futility of worry.
Worry changes nothing but my blood pressure.
It doesn't make the rain fall.
It doesn't keep my children safer or healthier.
It doesn't resolve international crises or end starvation.
It doesn't keep airplanes in the sky or trains on their tracks.
In some ways, worry acts a lot like water, doesn't it? It drives its victims from one unsuitable shelter to another, wears us down - body and spirit, tears us away from the people and things we hold dear, and threatens our very lives. Unlike water, worry changes absolutely nothing it touches. In fact, worry does nothing but plague the worrier. And I, for one, am getting pretty sick of "the plague."

From Bobby McFerrin: "Don't worry; be happy."
From Australian lore: "No worries, mate."
From Matthew 6: "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important that clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

So I ask myself - over and over and over - why worry?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Life is so ...


There are moments of jubilation.
Unimaginable joy.
Unrelenting gloom.

In response, I wait.
Curry favors.
Cry wolf.
Hang in there.

What choice do I have?

PS. One choice is to keep adding to the list of adjectives about life. Two additions from a friend: messy, confusing. What about: exasperating, fulfilling, surprising, colorful, inspirational, topsy-turvy, hot, cold, and everything in between?

Friday, June 09, 2006

My 200th Blog...

Time does fly.
As do the words.
Two hundred messages from me to you and the world.
Thanks for coming back.
Thanks for your many words of support.
Thanks for telling others about my blog and adding links to your blogs so that others will come and read.

I just went to another favorite blog ( and read her musings on walking her dog, waiting at a traffic light, telling the truth, and being loved. Her experiences are universal, but her words are melodic. Plus she adds the most dreamy photographs.

Reading Maya's blog reminded me that there are so many of us bloggers out there. Reflecting on life, on love, on faith, on pregnancy, on parenting, on art, on books and music and scrapbooking and politics and divorce and everything else that makes us human and that connects us across social, racial, economic, geographic and international boundaries. I am awed by all the links from one blog to another, one website to another, one nation to another.

We yearn to touch one another, body, soul, mind, and spirit. We long to hear one another's voices, hold one another's hands, and share one another's life experiences. We want to laugh together, wipe one another's tears, and remind each other that we are not alone. We were never meant to be alone. And this crazy virtual internet world connects us to people we would never meet in real life, but whose spirits are so like our own.

So on the occasion of this, my 200th blog, I extend my heart, my mind, and my soul to each of you in gratitude. Thank you for being you and encouraging me to be me. Please drop me a line when you can; I love hearing from you.

I wish you a marvelous weekend, traveling mercies for whatever expedition you are currently on, and great adventures at every turn. Then join the club; share your story. Someone else needs to hear what you have to say. I certainly do.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

1. I just went to a very cool website: It's a website that allows women to design stationery, business cards, labels, and that sort of thing with images on them that reflect the woman herself. Kristiana helped me design a card "in my own image." Even if you don't buy anything, it's fun to create a personal icon. Thanks so much for the card, Kim, and thanks for the web address.

2. I played tennis with Daniel this morning, just the two of us. Talking, laughing, chasing errant shots. We played for about 35 minutes then decided to "play a game." He won the first game, and I won the second game. Then we called it quits; I hate going home mad because he beat me, and I dare say that the same is true for him. We had a great time together out on the court. I had a somewhat disturbing thought at one point: he's only nine-years-old now, but within two years, he will be beating me handily out there. Yikes! Perhaps I should sign up for lessons again...

3. Tomorrow is our last day of homeschooling for the year. Another year older, wiser, and closer as a family. They excelled on their achievement testing; interestingly enough, North Carolina homeschoolers are not allowed to take the North Carolina achievement tests. We must choose between Iowa and California's tests. We choose the West Coast Test, and they passed with flying colors. Yeah for them!

4. We've hired some friends (who own a landscaping company) to come and help us make sense of our fiercely overgrown yard. They have discovered snake holes, termites, and weeds that are larger than some of the trees and bushes that the previous owners paid good money to plant in our yard. It's quite sobering to learn how much we don't know about the great outdoors. After only two visits to our little corner of Charlotte, Alexandra and Marlon have opened our eyes to what is possible if we keep the weeds under control, shape the bushes well, and clear away the pine needles so that ground can breathe.

5. I'm getting increasingly excited about next weekend's retreat in New Jersey. Actually, exactly one week from now, I'll be roaming the streets of midtown Manhattan before heading down to NJ Friday afternoon for the weekend. I arrive in the City on Thursday and plan to window shop, duck into a museum or two, and otherwise take full advantage of twenty-four hours of freedom to roam around my old stomping ground. I am hoping to catch up with a friend or two, and will spend the night at a friend's apartment on 57th street between 6th and 7th avenues. Do call if you are free for coffee or tea in NYC. I don't have plans for dinner on Thursday, so...

6. There is a population explosion happening here in South Charlotte: it would appear that rabbits are multiplying in our neighborhood. Earlier this evening, I stood on a friend's driveway talking for about 20 minutes, and we saw between 6 and 10 rabbits hopping to and fro in search of carefully planted flowers and foliage to devour. They are cute little critters who manage to make mincemeat of many a garden.

7. I'm in the process of reading "Tom Sawyer" to the children. What a rascally fellow that Tom was and is. We laugh at him heartily - and I warn them not to try any of those things at home!

8. Maya is truly the cutest dog I've ever lived with - as well as the only dog I've ever lived with. Seriously, she has become quite the cuddly, funny, adventurous little darling. No indoor puddles in quite a while either - for that, we are all grateful. That crazy little dog loves Steve more than I do; when he arrives from work, she is absolutely frantic with joy. She sprints to the door, jumps up and down on her hind legs, and doesn't leave him alone until he picks her up and holds her close to his heart. Even as I type this statement, he called up to me, "Gail, where's Maya?" In the words of a friend from CT, "If she were another woman, I'd be seriously worried."

9. There's nothing like a glass of wine on a Thursday evening to ease me into my weekend.

10. Speaking of the weekend, tomorrow night at 7 PM, there will be a service to celebrate the life of little Christopher Sanders, the six-year-old boy who passed away back at the beginning of April. Sorrow, tears, stories, laughter, slides, music - and remembrances of a life cut short. My thoughts and prayers remain with Laurie.

11. On Saturday morning, my dear friend Alejandra and I will have breakfast together, just the two of us. I can't wait to tell her stories about my trip to her beloved Costa Rica and share a couple of hours of "pura vida" together. I've gotta remember to take my pictures...

12. Earlier this evening, I had an excellent conversation with Jim, my friend and therapist. That man sure knows how to ask the tough questions, but he also knows how to motivate me, encourage me, and push me to dig deeper where needed, let myself off the hook as needed, and allow myself to enjoy my life. I don't have to take everything so seriously. I can give myself permission to be happy, to rejoice, and to revel in the many blessings I have been given. To that end...

13. I've got a secret plan for Sunday. My kids have no idea what frolicking, laughing, and raucous family time we will share, but, boy, oh boy, will it be fun. I figured that since I was out of town last weekend, and I will be out of town again next weekend, the least I could do was make a special plan for the four of us this weekend. It's killing them that they don't know what lies ahead, and it's thrilling me that I get to make a plan, keep it a secret, and watch them fawn in the fun. Yeah for all of us!

This has been a very good Thursday.
How about yours?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


it's the simplest things in life that bring me the greatest joy. Things like -

* eating dinner at a pizza restaurant we like and having the waiter remember our names.

* letting Daniel play hooky from basketball practice so we could have dinner together at the aforementioned pizza place.

* walking through a shopping plaza with Steve and the kids. We walked, talked, laughed, and marveled at the myriad piercings we saw in the myriad bodies.

* finding a great sale on some of our favorite lotions and potions at Bath and Body Works: Orange Ginger hand cream, Rosemary Peppermint moisturizing foot cream, among others.

* the buzz of my cell phone when a friend sends a text message.

* walking through the Schiele Nature Museum with a family of homeschoolers whose company we thoroughly enjoy.

* going back to their house afterwards and sitting poolside with the other Mom while the kids frolicked in their saltwater swimming pool.

* listening to Maya run up and down the stairs as she frantically tries to decide which family member she wants to play with.

* reading the blogs of women I don't know personally but who feel more like friends than some of the people who live on my street. One is pregnant after years of trying ( Another is struggling to find her foothold as she goes through a painful divorce ( Still another is rejoicing over the first solo gallery exhibition of her artwork ( I wish I could see each of those beautiful women and give them a hug. Traveling mercies to you all, Andrea, Jen, and Leonie.

* spending last weekend with 23 women who are seeking newness of life in places that have seemed barren for years, who are hoping to find their foothold on the slippery path of life's journey, as well as figuring out ways to display their inner beauty that has not yet been made public. We talked, laughed, cried, made crafts, played games, walked, shopped, and ate together. One woman ran into a friend she hadn't seen in months at a shoe store and met that friend's Japanese daughter-in-law for the first time there at DSW. Who says nothing good can come out of a shopping spree?

* planning to spend not this weekend, but next weekend with another group of women, leading them down new paths of spiritual discovery, and watching them as they reach out to each other as co-travelers on their journeys.

* When I stand in front of these groups of women, share my stories, cry openly before them, read Scriptures with them, and encourage them to tell themselves, each other, and God the truth about who they are, what their struggles and dreams are - when I look out into the audience and see tears streaming down their faces, listen to their hearty laughter at my silly jokes, see the frenzy of their pens as they take notes, and watch as they smile at each other and reach out to embrace each other - that's when I know I'm doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.

* Sometimes it's the simplest things that make me happiest.
Tonight I celebrate those simple pleasures.
I celebrate family, friends, pizza, ginger ale with lots of lemon, and peppermint foot cream.
I celebrate hugging and kissing my kids before they go to bed.
I celebrate getting up from the computer, brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting on my jammies, climbing into bed, and rolling over to hug my husband.
Tonight I celebrate my life.
I am filled with gratitude.